THERE'S SOMETHING stitchy going on in Savannah, and fiber artists Rubi McGrory and Karin Soderholm are putting this trend into the limelight with “Stitch Spectacular.”
This juried collection of contemporary hand-embroidered artwork will be on display Jan. 9-Feb. 3 at Dimensions Gallery, 412 Martin Luther King Blvd.
The exhibition’s statement of purpose declares, “No longer solely the domain of grandmothers and pre-packaged samplers, hand embroidery is making its way into the world of fine art and galleries.”
Soderholm, who learned to cross-stitch when she was 6, notes, “Embroidery is a language we are familiar with and in that way it is accessible to artist and non-artists alike. It is interesting to see how something familiar can be stretched and approached in new ways.”
Stitch Spectacular will feature 41 pieces by artists from as far away as Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“By hosting an exhibition like this in Savannah, we are highlighting local work as well as connecting embroiderers in Savannah with those from other places and vice versa,” notes Soderholm.
Participants were selected by an impressive jury comprising Grace Bonney, founder of design*sponge website; Kate Bingaman-Burt, founder of the Obsessive Consumption website and assistant professor at Portland State University; and Torrey Stifel, studio coordinator at the Jepson Center for the Arts. Learn more about the judges and entries at www.stitchspectacular.com.
Embroidery stitches can be as simple as the running or straight stitch -- the most basic sewing stitch created by passing the needle in and out of the fabric -- to a bullion stitch, where the needle comes up through the fabric and twists around the thread repeatedly before it passes back through the fabric.
“Frequently, it is not the degree of difficulty of the stitch, as much as how stitch heavy the piece is or how different stitches are used on different substrates to render an image,” says McGrory, whose aunt taught her poolside to needlepoint in the mid-’70s.
“I guarantee you everything you see at this show was meticulously labored over – some to the point of obsession. Stitching is a slow process, so must really love what you are working on, which is evident in all of the pieces.”
Embroidery may be applied to various materials.
“Many pieces in our show use recycled materials -- work clothes, antique linens, even a recycled wedding dress,” McGrory continues.
“Some of the pieces employ unexpected materials like door screens or various forms of latex, while other pieces have only evidence of stitches in the form of a print.”
At the Stitch Spectacular opening reception Jan. 9, 7-10 p.m., the judges will present one Best in Show award and three Juror Choice awards. Jessica Rogers and Becky Dryden, who earned B.F.A. degrees in fibers at the Savannah College of Art and Design, will give a performance that Soderholm describes as a conversation literally and figuratively through embroidery. A closing reception will be held Jan. 30, 5-8 p.m.
McGrory and Soderholm, graduate fibers students at SCAD, will exhibit their work at Stitch Spectacular separate from the juried pieces. McGrory’s work is an alphabet quilt with each letter expressed as a corporate logo. Her background includes 15 years as a chef on private and charter yachts, catering to the whims of the elite.
Using kantha stitches popular in West Bengal, India, Soderholm creates maps of important places from her past on recycled clothing. Previously an art teacher in Denver, Colo., she is now a studio technician in the SCAD fibers department.
To get in touch with your inner stitcher, pick up a copy of Betty Barndon’s Embroidery Stitch Bible, check out online tutorials or sign up for a course taught by McGrory through SCAD Community Education (www.scad.edu/ce).
“My superpower is helping non-artists find their creative side,” confesses McGrory, “... to help them find the fun and inspiring creative parts of themselves they have suppressed or forgotten about.” cs
When: Jan. 9-Feb. 3. Opening reception Jan. 9, 7-10 p.m., closing reception Jan. 30 5-8 p.m.
Where: Dimensions Gallery, 412 Martin Luther King Blvd.